Mr. SMUG Man

So I’m sitting in the Adele K. Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland waiting for the shuttle to take me to the Metro and the airport (and out of this hell-furnace they call D.C.) logged into their campus wireless with some username and password that got passed around at the SMUG (SFX/Metalib User’s Group) conference.

All in all, this was a really useful conference (and I don’t throw those words around lightly). One major problem, however, was that there was really no internet access for the people here (to be fair, there was a lab in the library that we could use — but our schedule didn’t allow us to get there much). Even worse, I was staying in the dorm. The dorm rooms have nothing but a bed, really… so it was imperative to avoid the dorm at all costs until I wanted to fall asleep.

But back to the conference: this was my first SMUG, and I really didn’t know what to expect. The morning started off (early!) with the typical rah-rah fest of the vendor announcements (this time through the Ex Libris filter, rather than Endeavor). The last of these, though, was a bit inspirational.

Ex Libris has named Oren Beit-Arie their Chief Strategy Officer and he spoke about upcoming development and goals for the company. The amazing part here is he talked about how Ex Libris was going to focus on interoperability. He added that Ex Libris wants to create products that are modular and can be used with other technologies, whether Ex Libris is the backend or something else is and Ex Libris is used as the front end (or vice versa). Wow! This is exactly what I asked Endeavor to do (they won’t).

Dear University System of Georgia: can we please move to Ex Libris as our primary vendor?
If not, Dear Ex Libris: are you hiring?

Helping put the smug into SMUG, oddly my name was mentioned by two of the speakers before 10AM on the first day (Oren and Roy Tennant). The last time my name called out before 10 AM in a room full of my peers, I had to do 3-5 (thank you folks, I’m here until 3PM!). To be completely honest, though, it was always addressed as “Peter Binkley and Ross Singer”. This is actually the way it should be done, Peter should always come before me. Still… flattering that Oren had any idea who I was. Roy, of course, is on the beer (scotch, wine) list.

Roy was next to talk about the pros and cons of Google Scholar. This was very informative, made even more so by the fact that Anarug Acharya (principal engineer, Google Scholar) arrived in the middle of Roy’s presentation.

Then Carla Lillvik of Harvard spoke of their Metalib installation. I’m sorry, but it flat out sucks. Worse, it has taken 2 years to get to this level of suckery. Metalib–

Next up was a panel on Metalib usability testing. If anyone needs to read Polishing the Turd, it’s these folks. It seems the problems with Metalib’s user interface are so deep (and customization so difficult) that they resort to things like “changing colors of tabs” to help the users. Metalib–

Anurag spoke after lunch and talked about the mechanics and direction of Google Scholar. I feel a little better about the holdings issue now, but I still am a bit uncomfortable about the advantage that gives Google Scholar over other database search engines. Anurag is an interesting fellow. He’s very confident (some may take it as arrogant), intelligent, and while he wants to work with libraries, he doesn’t really want to deal with our b.s., either.

At this point the program changed dramatically and my presentation with Selden was moved up to be next. I hadn’t actually gotten a chance to get to a computer to see if my presentation was working (it’s, of course, a live presentation). After a scary moment without any network connectivity, we were up and running. Frank Cervone introduced us and mentioned my heavy metal hair from high school. As usual, I forgot half of the things I wanted to say while onstage.

It was quite cool that Anurag stayed as long as he could through my presentation.

Afterwards, I spoke to Oren and he got me on the notion of “Context Objects” vs. “Latent OpenURL Autodiscovery”. I will definitely investigate this more, but Oren (and Herbert van de Sompel) are probably right. This is probably a much better approach.

I need to start wrapping this up so I can catch the shuttle… but I have quite a bit more that I want to say… mainly how by day two (thanks to Roy, Mike McKenna and David Walker, not to mention Karen Groves) I am very high on Metalib again, but only through the X-Server. I got to spend a lot of time with David Walker (in fact, he was inducted into the beer list) and I’m really glad I did. He’s doing some amazing stuff at Cal State San Marcos and we can all learn a lot from him.

So, Metalib++?

I also have several orders for WAGgers. I am thinking of maybe moving it to being a hosted service.

Also, thanks to Katie Gohn for supplying the entertainment at our table at the Dinner/Reception Thursday night.

2 comments
  1. carol o said:

    Dude I’m so jealous. Wish I could’ve stuck around.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Hey, the presentation was great! (But where is my WAGger! ;)
    I’m hoping to get the $$$ so we can license the x-server & create a decent MetaLib front-end.
    -Andrew Forman / aka ph0rman

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